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29 Jul 2021 | 9:09

Arun Kang 0This month has seen the announcement of three new Board members for the Sport for Development Coalition following a recruitment process supported by a series of equality partners. In this blog Arun Kang, the Chief Executive of one of those partners Sporting Equals, outlines why this process is critical.

Over the past months Sporting Equals, alongside other equality partners, has acted in an advisory role as the Sport for Development Coalition has embarked on a period of governance reform. During this period and beyond, the Coalition has committed to diversifying the groups, networks and communities leading its collective action, in order to better reflect the rich diversity of the communities and people who make up the sport for development movement.

REPRESENTATION

Our support, and specific area of expertise, has initially focused on recruiting three new Board members for the Coalition, including the development of the recruitment pack and advising on the process. Thanks to the Sporting Equals Charter, we were able to share the vacancies to our vast and diverse networks through our online channels, as well as directly distributing them to our LeaderBoard Academy graduates. These graduates have completed a course pioneered by Sporting Equals and the University of Leicester to become ‘Board ready’, in order to actively combat the low levels of ethnically diverse representation in decision-making roles in the sport and physical activity sector.

It is absolutely vital that greater lived experience and diversity is reflected at Board and leadership level because senior levels of decision-making have an impact on the entire sector, including all of the communities that we serve, and seek to serve. At Sporting Equals, we feel that much more can be done to engage ethnically diverse communities across the sport and physical activity sector - at all levels from the playing fields to the Boardroom. We know that engagement levels and issues of inequality can be reduced by diversifying the leading decision-making bodies within the sector. The sage saying of ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’ comes to mind and we feel it is important to reflect as many community views as possible at senior decision-making levels to ensure that the policies and practices which are outlined and enforced, encompass the communities we seek to serve. This will ultimately help to increase race equality and impact positively on participation numbers as well as Boardrooms that are reflective of the population.

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To underscore this, the Coalition recently signed up to the Sporting Equals Charter and committed to supporting its ‘three Cs’ – to capture, commit and celebrate. The ‘three Cs’ are essential for any signatory to the Sporting Equals Charter because when it comes to representation in sport and physical activity sector, we have seen much bigger strides in FTSE100 companies, education and the media; sadly our sector is still many years behind a level of representation that we would expect. The latest figures from Sport England-funded bodies showed that 7.9% of Board members are from an ethnically diverse background, which indicates slight annual increases of around 1% each year. This isn’t good enough. We know that the Census in 2011 showed ethnic diversity at around 14% of the population and we’re expecting this statistic to grow when the 2021 Census data is released.

OUTCOMES

The recently conducted Racism in Sport Review highlighted just how far the sector still has to go. It is incredibly important to ensure that many areas of society are represented at a decision-making level and, by bringing diversity into the Boardroom, this should go some way in ensuring diversity of thought is considered at every step. In the Autumn, we will be releasing the Race Report Card, which will require national governing bodies to collate and report data on diverse ethnic representation, and we hope that this platform will provide us with a year-on-year picture and track progress.

The need for these initiatives, and for embedding processes, has only been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic. We were not surprised but certainly saddened by how it has negatively impacted ethnically diverse communities whether that is in terms of shocking health inequalities or even instances of racism following variant portrayal in mainstream media. Throughout this period, we have continued engaging with the community organisations we work with to ensure their voices have had a platform for amplification, including responding to Government consultations with a collective message. We have worked alongside Sport England and Comic Relief to distribute funds to ethnically diverse organisations who needed support during this time; we feel the communities we serve as a sector should be at the epicentre of everything we do, so as we try to emerge from this pandemic there will be a real focus and commitment needed to delivering equitable outcomes for all communities.

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There is no single, systemic issue that directly contributes to the deeply engrained inequalities faced by ethnically diverse communities within this sector, and indeed in other walks of life. Nonetheless the lack of diversity in decision-making roles is very much a root cause, and we have seen successive appointments coming from a select pool of people that has time and time again never led to any real and sustained change. After the events of the last year, it is now time for existing decision-making structures to take ownership of this issue and commit to putting resources behind well-intentioned statements to follow this up with real, considered action.

The deep-seated inequality, evidenced as recently as this summer and highlighted by racism in both sport and wider society, is still very much prominent and we are now calling for organisations to indicate exactly how they are operating as anti-racist as opposed to just being ‘not racist’, which we believe goes back to resourcing and meaningful engagement with ethnically diverse communities.

Find out more about Sporting Equals' Race Equality Charter.